THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Chief executive seems victorious

icon sackboss26 June ~ Last season Brighton & Hove Albion finished fourth in the Championship, with that league's highest average home crowd and a manager, Gus Poyet, as popular and successful as any in the club's history. Seven weeks later Poyet has been dismissed. The story begins with the June 2012 appointment of Paul Barber as Brighton's chief executive. Previously at the FA, Tottenham and Vancouver Whitecaps, it reflected the ambition of chairman Tony Bloom. Having consolidated in the Championship in 2011-12, the next season saw a push for promotion.

Even if too many games were drawn, this was probably the best Albion squad in at least 30 years. The most impressive results came with a 2-0 victory at eventual champions Cardiff and, in the FA Cup, an easy disposal of Newcastle followed by an unlucky defeat in a pulsating game against Arsenal.

With only a few games left Poyet was approached by Reading, a courting that became very public. Had he gone it would have been a curious move. Reading looked doomed by that point and Brighton well set for the play-offs. More likely was that a bluff was being called. Barber, faced by fan criticism regarding issues such as the high cost of catering, was making more and more noises about Financial Fair Play and the need to balance the club's books, despite the high crowds. 

Then came Palace. Very little about the play-off semi-final second leg cast Brighton in a good light on or off the pitch. A gutless performance and deserved defeat, and the immediate realisation that all has now changed as a result, is not a great time to have a microphone stuck in one's face: but that is the modern media. Poyet's post-match comments about his future lit the fuel which had been accumulating all season. They became the focus of the subsequent disciplinary proceedings but really were just the catalyst: they are better seen as a simple facing-off of egos between him and Barber – the latter has come out victorious.

In late June fan opinion is hard to gauge and there is time to tidy up the debris left by this battle. If a good replacement manager arrives quickly and the new season starts well, this may all become a footnote in history. If the reverse is the case Barber will find his position undermined, for one thing seems certain: the new appointment will be his choice. The club is at a significant watershed; things could move either way from here. Drew Whitworth

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